Social and Economic Aspects of Water Use in Specialty Crop Production in the USA: A Review Academic Article uri icon


  • Understanding human behavior is a complicated and complex endeavor. Academicians and practitioners need to understand the underlying beliefs and motivations to identify current trends and to effectively develop means of communication and education that encourage change in attitudes and behavior. Sociological research can provide information about how and why people make decisions; this information impacts the research and extension community, helping them formulate programs and present information in a way that increases adoption rates. Life cycle assessment can document how plant production impacts the environment. Production of ornamental plants (greenhouse, container, and field produced flowers trees and shrubs) accounted for 4.4% of the total annual on-farm income and 8.8% of the crop income produced in the United States in 2017, representing a substantial portion of farmgate receipts. Greenhouse and nursery growing operations can use this information to increase production and water application efficiency and decrease input costs. Information related to the environmental impacts of plant production, derived from life cycle assessment, can also inform consumer purchase decisions. Information from water footprint analysis quantifies the relative abundance and availability of water on a regional basis, helping growers understand water dynamics in their operation and informing consumer plant purchases based on water availability and conservation preference. Economics can motivate growers to adopt new practices based on whether they are saving or making money, and consumers modify product selection based on preference for how products are produced. Specialty crop producers, including nursery and greenhouse container operations, rely heavily on high quality water from surface and groundwater resources for crop production; but irrigation return flow from these operations can contribute to impairment of water resources. This review focuses on multiple facets of the socioeconomics of water use, reuse, and irrigation return flow management in nursery and greenhouse operations, focusing on grower and consumer perceptions of water; barriers to adoption of technology and innovations by growers; economic considerations for implementing new technologies; and understanding environmental constraints through life cycle assessment and water footprint analyses. Specialty crop producers can either voluntarily adapt practices gradually to benefit both economic and environmental sustainability or they may eventually be forced to change due to external factors (e.g., regulations). Producers need to have the most current information available to inform their decisions regarding water management.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 2.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Majsztrik, J. C., Behe, B., Hall, C. R., Ingram, D. L., Lamm, A. J., Warner, L. A., & White, S. A.

citation count

  • 5

complete list of authors

  • Majsztrik, John C||Behe, Bridget||Hall, Charles R||Ingram, Dewayne L||Lamm, Alexa J||Warner, Laura A||White, Sarah A

publication date

  • January 1, 2019 11:11 AM